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SOU's conference delays start of fall sports

CORVALLIS — The Cascade Collegiate Conference Council of Presidents voted Friday to delay the start of CCC fall sports — which include cross country, soccer and volleyball at Southern Oregon University — and hopes to conduct seasons instead during the winter and/or spring, the league office announced.

The vote also included a mandate that outside competition in all CCC sports be suspended until at least Nov. 1, at which time conditions will be reevaluated.

“Our focus is on the safety of all students on our campus,” said SOU President Linda Schott, who participated in today’s vote by the Council of Presidents. “We also feel that this move provides the best opportunity for our fall sports student-athletes to participate in a full season of competition during the coming academic year.”

Conversations regarding an adjusted plan of action for football are ongoing between SOU, College of Idaho and Eastern Oregon — all full members of the CCC and associate members of the Frontier Conference in football. The Frontier schedule was shortened last month to eight games, and the season is likely to be further modified based on Friday’s decision by the CCC.

“The ongoing issues with COVID-19 and the surge in cases, in particular in the geographical regions of our members schools, has made the prospect of properly conducting a fall season with the confidence we need to ensure the health and safety of our student-athletes during this pandemic unrealistic,” CCC commissioner Robert Cashell said.

The conference has fall sports members in Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Washington and British Columbia, Canada. Conflicting phases of reopening across the states, along with U.S.-Canada border restrictions, presented further complications.

On June 4, the NAIA announced return-to-play plans targeting a practice start date for all fall sports of Aug. 15 and a competitions start date of Sept. 5 for all sports except football, which would return Sept. 12. The plan is contingent on a threshold system that requires at least half the participating institutions in each sport to opt in and receive clearance from local authorities before the season can begin.

The NAIA has not announced adjustments to that plan, though the Red River Athletic Conference in Texas announced Thursday that its fall sports will move to the spring, and similar votes are expected to be held by more conferences across the NAIA in the coming days.

“We communicated with the national office that we were looking at this option for the CCC, and encouraged the NAIA to also take a hard look at doing the same,” said incoming Council of Presidents chair and Bushnell University President Dr. Joe Womack. “While we all want to have our student-athletes compete at the highest level, which is in a national tournament, we believe if we can provide a robust conference schedule and a CCC Championship experience in the spring that is safer and provides more stability, we owe it to our schools to try and do so.”

Coaches and administrators throughout the conference will form committees tasked with presenting revised schedules and setting standard start dates for practices.

As the CCC continues to monitor the status of the pandemic, decisions on the conference’s winter sports, basketball and wrestling, will be made as necessary.